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Ganz Presents Seeing-eye Building Directory at Disabilities Conference

On September 23, Professor Aura Ganz (in right of photo) of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department will present her PERCEPT project, a seeing-eye building directory with electronic signposts for the visually impaired, at the Products and Technologies That Change People’s Lives Conference in Boston’s Hynes Convention Center from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. As the conference website (http://www.changepeopleslives.org/) notes, the event features state-of-the-art products and technologies “that transform the lives of people with disabilities and older people and enhance everyone's lives.” Ganz and her research group are preparing a video, a mini-demo, a poster, and a flyer for the conference.

The Products and Technologies That Change People’s Lives Conference convenes individuals, educators, health professionals, businesses, non-profit organizations, and the public sector in Massachusetts and beyond for a day of knowledge sharing about emerging technologies and products for people with disabilities and older people. The event demonstrates to consumers, employers, educators, and others how emerging and advanced technology can improve the ability to work, live, learn, and play across the spectrum of ability and age.

Some 161 million people worldwide suffer from vision impairment, and they encounter many difficulties and embarrassments while trying to navigate strange buildings. Now PERCEPT will allow visually impaired individuals, each equipped only with a three-ounce electronic device and a headphone, to navigate unfamiliar buildings with ease. PERCEPT is generated using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags placed throughout a building as audio landmarks. When a visually impaired visitor tunes into these “electronic signposts” with his or her RFID reading device, the system feeds back verbal directions spoken through the person’s Bluetooth headphones.

Professor Ganz heads a research team working on the project through a three-year, $380,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Eye Institute. The project is entitled “PERCEPT: RFID-enabled automated space for the blind and visually impaired.” (September 2011)